Preliminary design study for a National Digital Seismograph Network

Open-File Report 81-1046
By:  and 



Recently, the National Research Council published a report by the Panel on National, Regional, and Local Seismograph Networks of the Committee on Seismology in which the principal recommendation was for the establishment of a national digital seismograph network (NDSN). The Panel Report (Bolt, 1980) addresses both the need and the scientific requirements for the new national network. The purpose of this study has been to translate the scientific requirements into an instrumentation concept for the NSDS.

There are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of seismographs in operation within the United States. Each serves an important purpose, but most have limited objectives in time, in region, or in the types of data that are being recorded. The concept of a national network, funded and operated by the Federal Government, is based on broader objectives that include continuity of time, uniform coverage, standardization of data format and instruments, and widespread use of the data for a variety of research purposes. A national digital seismograph network will be an important data resource for many years to come; hence, its design is likely to be of interest to most seismologists.

Seismologists have traditionally been involved in the development and field operation of seismic systems and thus have been familiar with both the potential value and the limitations of the data. However, in recent years of increasing technological sophistication, the development of data sstems has fallen more to system engineers, and this trend is likely to continue. One danger in this is that the engineers may misinterpret scientific objectives or subordinate them to purely technological considerations. Another risk is that the data users may misuse or misinterpret the data because they are not aware of the limitations of the data system. Perhaps the most important purpose of a design study such as this is to stimulate a dialogue between system engineers and potential data users.

The NDSN system concept presented in this report is intended to serve as a point of discussion -- a strawman, if you will. It is a feasible solution to what we perceive to be the objectives of the NDSN, but it is not a unique solution. Current technology offers a variety of choices in meeting design objectives. We have examined some but not all of these choices. Although our fundamental concept of the NDSN is based on current technology, we have anticipated developments in several fields where state-of-the-art is evolving rapidly, notably satellite communications and database management. If the installation of the NDSN is delayed 5 - 10 years, we anticipate that the methods proposed to record, communicate, and manage the data may change, but it is likely that the fundamental data requirements will be the same. Therefore, in this study we have concentrated more on the types of data that will be generated at the NDSN stations and less on specific hardware that might be used in the data system. When the NDSN is budgeted, a second, more hardware-oriented design study may be needed.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Preliminary design study for a National Digital Seismograph Network
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 81-1046
DOI 10.3133/ofr811046
Year Published 1981
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory
Description 58 p.
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